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The following are some extracts from the forthcoming book

 Palmyra Fallen: Rajani to War’s End

by Rajan Hoole


25th Anniversary of the Assassination of Dr. Rajani Thiranagama


Chapter 2 Extracts: A Parlous Quest to Live in Truth

 Subsequently Rajani played a leading role in reopening the University after the devastating war of October 1987. She worked shoulder to shoulder with lab assistants and employees to get the university open and ready for teaching. For Rajani and others close to her the University would be the voice of the people standing up to all armed actors, who would rather have the University serve their ends. This effort to regain a functioning university was in fact supported by the Indian Army as they wanted to show that they were restoring normalcy. From the first however, we in the university community made it clear that we had a will of our own.


 Brigadier Manjit Singh of the Rajput Rifles was then in charge of the University. Near the Railway Station in Jaffna Town , Manjit Singh had called out the residents for a cup of tea and had warned them that should one shot be fired from their area he would flatten the place. Rajani firmly told officers of the Indian Army where we stood, using expressions such as ‘the terror of the LTTE and terror of the Indian Army’. Like most others she did not try to pretend that only the LTTE was to blame. Rajani evoked respect as someone who was not playing games. An exceptional officer at the University was Major Bhatt of the Sikh Regiment, a graduate from Lucknow . They had been sent with next to no idea of what they were meant to accomplish.   It was a treacherous environment where the LTTE provoked them repeatedly, not to get the Indian Army out but to invite maximum reprisals against civilians, and too often the Indians took the bait. Unlike most officers, Bhatt did not talk down to others as though he knew all about his job. He was anxious to learn and never was a voice raised in talking with him. It was new for us to see officers of the major and captain ranks leading foot patrols, as we frequently saw Bhatt doing.


 Major Bhatt and Colonel Chatterjee, who too frequently came to the University, were part of the force that took Jaffna Town . One wonders if these officers thought back on aspects of their operations that left deep scars on the people. It is likely that their intelligence briefing was very poor and ordinary soldiers had been sent into Jaffna Hospital in the tragically mistaken belief that it was an LTTE fortress, a belief the LTTE encouraged by having a handful of cadres firing at them and running away. Chatterjee was friendly but perhaps a little suspicious of us. He said in the course of a conversation that his brother was a surgeon. Sritharan responded jokingly, “You are both in the killing business aren’t you?” Chatterjee laughed, the joke was well taken. Chatterjee was proud to recite for us Tagore’s poem ‘Where the mind is without fear…Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake


 Sritharan was very restless during that period. During night curfews he paced up and down, his lightning sharp intellect trying to pierce the fog of hopelessness and figure out initiatives the community could take and their possible consequences. By day he rode about on his bicycle at considerable risk with a cane basket hung on a handle, as though looking for food, but trying to find out what was really going on. It was his idea that he and I  should go to the town commandant’s office and ask for permission to inspect the University, an action that expedited its reopening.


 On one occasion late in the evening there was a tense encounter at the Science Faculty with Brigadier Manjit Singh, when Dr. Sritharan charged Indian soldiers of willfully damaging several computers. Manjit Singh made legalistic denials. Both voices rose to a crescendo. The lateness of the hour with Manjit’s bodyguard of half a dozen Sikh soldiers looking on inscrutably added to the tension in the atmosphere. Thankfully it ended and the interlocutors parted company. It had a funny sequel. Some days later Sritharan passed Manjit Singh’s vehicle on the road near the Nallur Education Office. Manjit Singh was not in it. The vehicle reversed fast and braked near a startled Sritharan. Manjit’s bodyguard grinned and gave Sritharan a friendly wave. They were seemingly pleased that someone told their boss off…


Some of us at the University, especially Sritharan and Rajani, felt that if we were to have some normality and a functioning civil life, we should demand that the Indian Army observed certain norms in dealing with the civilians and instituted some accountability; the damage the LTTE was doing could also be minimised. We sent a letter in early 1988 and received an invitation to the Jaffna Kacheri. Rev. Dr. Guy Rajendram was the most senior among us. Only Rajani came from the Medical Faculty and was the only woman in the group. The Indians took the meeting seriously even if it was only to tell their point of view. Their team was led by Major General Sardeshpande, the officer commanding the Jaffna Peninsula .



 Rajani who was in a white sari expressed very powerfully the plight of the civilians, her dismay at the way the Indian Army took Jaffna Hospital and at the plight of the women, many of whom were killed or raped by the Indian Army. Neither did she mince her words about what she thought about the LTTE. Sardeshpande, whom we later learnt had several misgivings about the Indian intervention, did his best at public relations and spoke about the psychology of the soldier under stress. Rajani responded strongly that psychology could not be an excuse for harming defenceless civilians, adding that our women are not objects for soldiers to relieve their stress. Many years later Sardeshpande, who had by then retired, told a friend of ours in Delhi that he had been highly impressed by Rajani.  She was among the exceptional civilians in Jaffna to make it clear to the Indian Army, the LTTE and other actors that the ordinary people had an independent voice and their dignity to defend and uphold. Her loss underscores what we miss today.    


 The notion of an independent voice was anathema to the LTTE. They tried repeatedly to provoke a clash with the Indian Army and to close down the University. On 1st February 1989 , Indian soldiers, in pursuit of an LTTE man who ran through the University, opened fire injuring some students. A demonstration at the main entrance by students the following morning moved towards the army camp at Parameswara Junction, despite stern threats issued by Major Nautyal, officer in charge at Tinnevely, whose experience included having fought Naxalites in Andhra. Two students died in the firing by the Army. Rajani was a notable exception to the Medical Faculty’s attitude that they were in a different world from the rest of the University. She quickly cycled over from the Medical Faculty and she and Sritharan were at the lead in taking the injured students to hospital.



 Within a short time the Town Commandant, Brigadier R.I.S. Kahlon, arrived at the University. Behind his tough exterior he was obviously upset. Significantly, he repeatedly asked why we waited so long and failed to contact him at the outset when trouble was imminent. Rajani and Sritharan protested vehemently that the Army opened fire at a peaceful, unarmed demonstration. While field officers might have felt differently, a normally functioning university was important for the military administration.


 Active staff members like Rajani extracted promises from officers, such as Kahlon, to not harass unarmed persons for their political views. Thus the University was able to challenge the Indian Army over arrests of students and demand their release. The Indian Army had been known to harass and threaten individual staff members, too. But this was challenged and in general limits were observed. The UTHR(J)’s documentation of violations by all parties was in the same spirit of standing up for the community…


 Piecing together Rajani’s subsequent assassination revealed to us the large network of political advisors, intelligence operatives and student spies that the LTTE maintained within the University, particularly the Medical Faculty…

 Although the controversy about private medical colleges came to be mixed up in lethal power play, the differences between the LTTE and JVP on the matter point to the different social classes whose support each considered crucial. The NLMC was a misadventure tied up with Rajani’s fate.



 2.3 The NLMC Fiasco, a Compromised Faculty and the Isolation of Rajani


…Alarm bells started ringing when the Senate of the University of Colombo in a controversial vote allowed NCMC students to sit for the same examinations as medical students of the university and hold degrees of the University of Colombo. Protests by Colombo medical students became increasingly acrimonious and lethal once the JVP too capitalised on the issue and killed Vice Chancellor Prof. Stanley Wijesundara in 1989.


 The NLMC was established in Jaffna in the mid 1980s following the NCMC precedent, and the plan was to give University of Jaffna degrees to the students. Partly owing to the disturbed conditions after July 1983, worsening the exodus of doctors, the NLMC did not have anything like the professional expertise or financial commitment that the NCMC had. The innovations done to Moolai Cooperative Hospital – that was to function as the teaching hospital – were widely regarded as inadequate. The venture had the support of several teachers of paramedical subjects at the University of Jaffna led by the professors of biochemistry and physiology. The proposal to award University of Jaffna medical degrees to NLMC students was however turned down by a senate committee, which found the admission requirements below the national minimum. This was when Rajani was away doing her PhD.


 Having paid large sums of money, the NLMC students were left in the lurch as teaching virtually ground to a halt. There were two desperate parties – the students themselves and the organisers of the venture. In a climate of civil war where gun culture provided a short cut to getting things done, even a crisis among the elite was bound to take unpredictable turns. In university circles it was said that the directors of the NLMC were prevented at gunpoint from closing up and going away. The next move in the matter came in early 1989 when Rajani was back.


 In late 1987, after the Indian Army offensive, Rajani had worked hard to reopen the Medical Faculty with the vision that the University would become the centre of revival for a society torn apart, torn asunder by social strife and violence. She strongly disagreed with her faculty colleagues who kept it closed for six months as a means of drawing attention to the shortage of staff. She wanted them to do a job, earn respect and persuade Tamil doctors living abroad to help them by doing short tours of teaching…


 Rajani was the only member of the medical staff who openly objected to the incorporation on the grounds that even the Jaffna Medical Faculty was grossly understaffed and for the few available teachers to do a second job at the NLMC would adversely affect standards. Rajani moreover pointed out that Anatomy was the most substantive pre-clinical subject and being the sole qualified anatomist at the Department (one among perhaps four qualified anatomy teachers in the whole country at the time) she could not physically handle three batches simultaneously. The Dean repudiated her with vehemence at faculty and senate meetings. Many agreed with her but chose not to confront authority.


 The medical students in the University of Jaffna were fervently opposed to the incorporation of the NLMC. About July 1989 when Rajani was in England , the students locked up the Dean to prevent him from attending an NLMC function. The faculty members closed the faculty for three weeks until the students came crawling back with letters of apology. When Rajani returned from England , her faculty colleagues justified the closure to her on the grounds that the students were breaking the rules. Rajani asked them whether they followed the rules requiring them to get permission from the University before taking lectures at the NLMC? She was upset with her colleagues for imposing their authority over the students by humiliating them, using sheer power rather than reason that should be the common currency in an academic institution.


  Besides, the ethics of the NLMC were mired in a serious conflict of interest. The students who worked hard and made it into the state-funded university system would be in competition not with products of an independent university, but with those of a commercial establishment purporting to be a private university, but using the same teachers from the state-funded system and paying them twice of what they received from their principal affiliation, the University of Jaffna.[1]


 Students from the NLMC, including several of those involved with the LTTE, called regularly at the Medical Faculty for discussions with members of the staff who supported the NLMC. According to the student we shall refer to as L whom the LTTE installed as president of the Medical Students’ Union (more of him later), the Dean had importuned him to sign a letter purportedly from the Union to the parliamentary select committee, certifying that the Jaffna medical students supported the incorporation of the NLMC into the Eastern University. He added that some LTTE members interested in the matter had said at the Medical Faculty that whoever opposed the scheme for incorporation of the NLMC into Eastern University would be “dealt with”.


 Hardly any members of the Faculty were LTTE supporters in any but a wishy-washy sense; many were just nationalists of the TULF mould. Like the students admitted to the NLMC, they too were desperate and were willing to pull any string that came to hand whether in the North or the South. They were desperate and angry. One instance gives an idea of how it possibly compromised the University. The course of events suggest that the Indian Army had their own informants in the University and knew what was going on inside and used it to arm-twist members of the university community. It is not unlikely that the Indian Army knew that the LTTE dealt with a section of the medical dons, even if they did not know it was about the NLMC. The incident described below illustrates this point well.  


 During July 1989, Neethirajah, a second-year medical student, was assaulted by an Indian officer when he tried to intervene on behalf of another student. He reported this to the Dean of Medicine who was briefly Acting Vice Chancellor. The Dean promptly and confidently complained by letter to General Kalkut, GOC Indian Forces in Sri Lanka . This was contrary to the usual practice of contacting the local commander Colonel Sashikumar, who was very particular about maintaining a clean record. The letter to Kalkut was redirected to Sashikumar.


 For about two nights Major Nautyal from Tinnevely Junction, with another officer, visited the Dean and had apparently searched his place. Major Nautyal in due course called on the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Thurairajah, who had returned, and told him that the Dean had several live bullets at home, which was a serious offence. Nautyal added that he was prepared to overlook the offence if the Vice Chancellor would withdraw the complaint about the assault. Prof. Thurairajah asked the Dean of Medicine about this, and out of concern for his safety, advised him to go abroad for some time. The Dean admitted to having the bullets and was not interested in going abroad. Thurairajah could get no more clarification from him about what had really happened, and reluctantly withdrew the complaint.


 In this affair, the Faculty became compromised partly on account of the intrigues concerning the NLMC in which it had the LTTE’s support. On this count too Rajani became isolated. LTTE cadres took advantage of this situation and hid arms on the premises and even slept there. In this murky situation, the Indian Army too had its sources of information and Rajani despaired of what might happen if they decided to act.


 The significance of the NLMC affair for Rajani’s killing is that her principled stand on issues and her interest in the welfare of the University and the larger community had thoroughly isolated her within the Faculty, as would be seen in the sequel on how indifferently the Faculty reacted to her murder. The LTTE knew of her isolation and it helped them enormously to dampen the effect of her loss. Had they thought that the Faculty would firmly stand up and condemn the killing and highlight the irreparable loss, it would have acted as a strong deterrent to killing Rajani. Yet the Faculty, which was closed for six months the previous year to protest the lack of staff, carried on almost as though her loss was of meagre significance. Her loss as a teacher of Anatomy, who could also train others to succeed her cannot be overestimated. To this day, the medical faculty has found no adequate replacement for her... 


 2.4 Power of the Powerless: The Broken Palmyra and the formation of the UTHR (J):


The next opportunity for change came when Prof. A. Thurairajah of the Open University, who was Co-Chairman of the national UTHR, was appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna in September 1988. This was a boon to academics who wanted the University to be more democratic and active in the wider community. With Prof. Thurairajah’s backing, additional structures were formed to deal with problems everyone was facing owing to the unsettled conditions – particularly the LTTE trying repeatedly to steer the University on a collision course with the Indian Army. These structures included the Staff, Students and Employees’ Consultative Committee. There were also informal initiatives such as the remarkable document Laying Aside Illusions, signed by 50 academics in November 1988 (


 Young active staff members and students became unusually visible in the University. Understandably, it made some older academics unhappy and nervous (as we were to learn). The academic community in Lanka had come a long way from its halcyon days of the 1930s to 1960s when it appeared to stand for intellectual freedom and open discourse. The fact that its complacency had not been shaken by the passage of the Citizenship Bills of 1948-1949 which virtually made serfs of the Hill Country Tamil plantation labour, was a disturbing sign portending its impending surrender to ethnic chauvinism and the brutality dictated by class interest during the JVP-led Sinhalese youth uprisings of 1971 and 1987…  


 In November 1986 the university student Arunagirinathan Vijitharan, from Batticaloa, was abducted by the LTTE and killed apparently for the reason that in boyish fashion he had poked fun at a medical student, the girlfriend of LTTE leader Kittu. The student protest by the University drew in the schools and a large segment of ordinary people who had grave reservations about the direction that the LTTE was taking. The academics largely stayed on the fence. A few were openly contemptuous of the students. Some seniors came in as honest brokers between the students and the LTTE and persuaded the students to call off their protest on verbal assurances from the LTTE for the safety of their leaders and a promise that they would look for Vijitharan. Once the students called off their protest and the LTTE began hunting the student leaders (one of whom it later killed), the academics remained silent. It must be placed on record that the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Vithiananthan, conducted himself with dignity and  with genuine concern for the students.


 Vimaleswaran was then the student leader who led the protest when the leaders undertook a fast. A rural youth from Pooneryn, Vimaleswaran was politically astute, having been a member of the PLOTE; he left the group in the wake of its internal killings. Leading members of churches and of the elite who came to make peace thought they scored a coup when they persuaded LTTE’s Jaffna leader Kittu to put in an appearance and talk to the student leaders. They were impatient when Vimaleswaran was adamant on continuing the protest in spite of Kittu’s smile. Vimaleswaran’s words remained an indictment of the kind of elite arrogance that held time and again that the LTTE’s opponents had rebuffed the graciousness of the LTTE that genuinely wanted peace.


 Vimaleswaran said that Kittu’s conciliatory gestures had no meaning when the reality behind the scenes was that student protesters were being hounded and harassed by the LTTE. After the protest, with few means at his disposal, Vimaleswaran became a helpless fugitive. In 1988, he tried to make a meagre living for himself and his family, giving tuition. On 18th July the LTTE shot him dead after a class on Sattanathar Kovil Rd. , Nallur (UTHR( Jaffna ) Rep.1, Ch.1).


 Rajani then had just returned from England to a society characterised by fear, cynicism, mutual distrust and moral decay under the LTTE’s authoritarian regime. Vaclav Havel’s collection of essays, Living in Truth, published about this time, made a tremendous impact on Rajani and the circle around her, and influenced her actions. In that book were ideas to wean society away from deadening conformity.


  Havel ’s essay, “The Power of the Powerless”, influential in the recent Velvet revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia , examines the momentous consequences of speaking the truth. Havel begins with the example of a greengrocer who displays political slogans that he does not believe in but realises that he has to act as if he does in order to ensure his own survival. Havel instead takes the point at which the green grocer may indeed one day revolt against this complicity:


 Let us now imagine that one day something in our greengrocer snaps and he stops putting up the slogans merely to ingratiate himself…And he even finds the strength in himself to express solidarity with those whom his conscience commands him to support. In this revolt the greengrocer steps out of living within the lie…He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity. He gives his freedom a concrete significance. His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth

 The system, through its alienating presence in people, will punish him for his rebellion. It must do so because the logic of its automatism and self-defense dictate it. The greengrocer has not committed a simple individual offence isolated in its own uniqueness, but something incomparably more serious…He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie. He has broken through the exalted facade of the system and exposed the real, base foundations of power. He has said that the emperor is naked.”


 Where Rajani drew most from Havel was in the need to create small institutions at local level to provide a firm foundation and mutual support for people to live in truth:


 Rajani played a leading role in several important local initiatives, apart from the writing of The Broken Palmyra and the work of the UTHR (Jaffna). These included the founding of Poorani Illam, a home for abused and destitute women, several structures and initiatives at the University, including the Staff, Students and Employees Consultative Committee, and her mobilizing of the non-academic staff to reopen the Medical Faculty after the war in 1987. She was part of a women’s drama group to bring out the situation of women living under multiple oppressions which produced Aduppadi Arattai (Musings by the kitchen hearth) staged at the University’s Kailasapathy Auditorium. Further, she played an active role in initiating a system organised within the teachers’ unions to go to the relevant army camp immediately and challenge the arrest or harassment of any university person. This broke down after she was killed and the LTTE asserted control.


After her assassination there were scores of arrests, incidents of torture, assault and disappearance, especially of university students, first by the LTTE and then by the Sri Lankan forces. In its inability to articulate civic responsibility as a body, the University largely ended up accepting the status quo laid down by the powers that be – one that was brutal and demeaning. Any challenge carried a high price…  

The UTHR (Jaffna) acted with considerable autonomy. The reports once compiled were shown to Prof. Thurairajah, who readily consented, before release. Prof. Thurairajah was under much pressure. While his course of promoting a more democratic university ethos had a support base within the University and could negotiate the rocks, there was no problem. As we discuss later, Rajani’s murder ended this period and signalled the reassertion and punitive vengeance of the old establishment.


 The controversy that UTHR (J) reports would excite became clear after the publication of our second report in March 1989 on the developing situation after the parliamentary elections and issues confronting the Tamils. To compile this report, UTHR(J) had obtained help from Mr. Selvendra, Chairman of the Valvettithurai Citizens’ Committee, to meet victims of violence from that area and in particular the victims of an incident at Udupiddy. Mr. Selvendra had a liberal education and was a professional, and we sent him our first two reports through an engineer whom we will call Anandan, also of VVT origin. Anandan was two years the writer’s senior at university and was helpful to us with information. It was our hope that the reports would be treated in the spirit in which they were written. We were critical of all violations and their perpetrators, along with the LTTE’s child recruitment, but tried our utmost to be impartial with facts.


 About a month later Prof. Thurairajah sent for one of us and gave without a word the copy of Report No.2 we had sent Mr. Selvendra. The report had copious comments penned on it, especially on our criticism of the LTTE recruiting children and using them in lethal tasks. A particular bone of contention was on our reporting of the incident in Udupiddy (4.6 of On February 16th 1989 , an Indian Army convoy transporting ballot boxes from the parliamentary election just concluded stopped just outside Udupiddy. Then some excited Sikh soldiers rushed into the family home of Rev. Tharmakulasingam of the Church of South India and in the sequel, when an order was barked out, two soldiers turned and opened fire killing two of Tharmakulasingam’s sisters, one of whom was to give birth the next day.


 We then had no explanation for why the convoy had stopped. We learnt from a university lady from the locality that the LTTE had been in the area, and withdrew after firing a token shot to demonstrate their opposition to the elections. The people of the area had at that time moved out sensing trouble. Subsequent to the shooting of the two ladies, Rev. Tharmakulasingam observed a Sikh soldier seated on the ground, weeping aloud. We pointed out that this was not the only incident when a Sikh soldier was found weeping after such a tragedy, perhaps recalling disturbed conditions in their own villages back home in Punjab , which too was caught up in a bitter insurgency. Including this detail was far from mitigating the criminal behavior of an army tasked with upholding the law…However, Selvendra apparently felt that we had distorted the story by introducing a fictitious LTTE presence.[2]


 We heard no more until Anandan paid the writer a visit and related Selvendra’s objections. Anandan, who was always affable and, besides, somewhat naive, changed tone at one point and said severely of our reports, “If you want to write this kind of thing, you have to do it from [the protection of] an army camp.” Anandan stiffened involuntarily when he added that the kind of work the UTHR(J) was doing ‘would not be allowed’! The menace in these words became plain in the months and years to come. Anandan was simply repeating words of the LTTE-supporting elite among his contacts. The words were also an indication of how the UTHR(J) would be assailed by LTTE-supporters in the future.  Contrary to our uncritical hopes, once bitten by the bug of extreme nationalism, the maxim “facts are sacred” has little resonance even among those with a good liberal education.


 It was April 1989 and the LTTE was about to embark on talks with the Premadasa government. Anandan further said, “The LTTE is entering talks just to get the Indian Army out. Once that happens there would be a long and final battle for Eelam.” The full import of that statement seemed to be lost on him: the imposition of yet another war on a battered and weary population. 


 Anandan was at pains to say that the VVT elite, like those in the VVT Citizens Committee, were distinct from the LTTE although they supported its aspirations. He explained that the LTTE had recently given public offence by abducting a goldsmith for ransom while he was worshiping at the major Sellasannathy temple festival. The Citizens Committee urged the LTTE to release him, but they kept him until they got the last gold ingot demanded. He said the LTTE had a mind of its own and no one could influence it. Their relationship to the LTTE, one gathers, resembled that of devotees to an extremely harsh and capricious tutelary deity, whose will was not theirs to question. The visit was a sincerely meant friendly warning.


 Anandan had earlier objected to our coverage in Report No.1 of the murder on 21st October 1988 of Mr. Sivanandasundaram, a senior citizen from Vadamaratchy who led the Tamil Makkal Manram, of whom our report stated, His organisation is known to have taken the stand that the LTTE were the legitimate heirs of the Tamil National cause, and the other groups were even termed ‘traitors’.” He was returning from a meeting commemorating a dead LTTE cadre in Ariyalai, when his bus was stopped in Vallai Moor and he was taken out by three gunmen and shot dead, as the Indian Army provided cover for the killers. Anandan found our reference disrespectful of the man.


 This was a case at the heart of our work. As a man, the deceased and his family were socially close to some of us. The problem was how normally amiable people changed and became totally unable to see the other side, once bitten by the bug of LTTE ideology. They became obsessed by blind hatred – the universal hallmark of gentleman chauvinists. Many LTTE-supporting elite saw in Sivanadasundaram who was spouting venom against other militant groups a great man. They could not see that they made the old man a hero after encouraging him to make intemperate speeches, which they had better sense not to deliver themselves.


 We clearly condemned these killings as a perpetuation of blind intolerance by both sides. The killer in this instance was a member of the EPRLF from Valvettithurai (later EPDP), who was badly mauled and narrowly survived the Welikade prison massacre of July 1983. Such a man must have felt deeply offended when, after what he had been through, others who retired from hum drum government service, and had taken no comparable risks, should call him a traitor. From the start the UTHR(J) pleaded that our common stakes were too high for us to drown ourselves in such intolerance.


 Anandan’s visit was the first sign that we were entering tempestuous waters…Meanwhile, gambling on the strength of assurances and weapons given by the Sri Lankan government, the LTTE ratcheted up the harshness of its actions, deliberately provoking a blood sacrifice in Prabhakaran’s birth place. It was Prabhakaran’s protege Pottu Amman who was in charge of the area.


 2.5 A Deadly Sequel in VVT  


 Indeed, as was revealed, Anandan was in possession of knowledge of the LTTE’s long-term intentions. The LTTE did indeed go to peace talks only to remove the Indian Army, as he predicted, and did go to war with the Premadasa government in 1990. It was a drama in which neither the Government, the VVT CC nor the LTTE quite knew where they were headed except for wanting the Indian Army out for disparate reasons. They were all out of their depth.


 In mid-1989, the LTTE regularly provoked the Indian Army in all other parts of Vadamaratchy bringing about regular reprisals against the people. There was anger among the people in Vadamaratchy that Valvettithurai was allowed to enjoy peace for several months because it was the home town of Prabhakaran . LTTE cadres from other areas too must have felt it. Just past the middle of 1989, the story got about in Jaffna that the Premadasa government had given the LTTE a consignment of weapons towards their common objective of getting the Indian Army out. This was a cue for another fiendish turn of events. In early August 1989, the LTTE launched treacherous attacks on the Indian Army stationed at Mannar and Adampan Hospitals anticipating reprisals on the hospitals and their environs.


 In both these instances the Indian Army showed creditable restraint. In Adampan, on the night of 31st July a large group of the LTTE came into the jungle behind the hospital and fired missiles at the Madras Regiment on the other side of the hospital near Giant’s Tank. The officer in charge immediately contacted the doctor at the hospital and asked all of them to vacate as they were going to retaliate. Thus civilians escaped any harm. On 9th August, the Indian Army lost several men at Mannar Hospital . The attackers, who came by boat from Vankalai stole in to the hospital by night and fired from an upstairs window of the OPD building, overlooking Indian troops sleeping in a tent below. Other Indian troops who arrived calmed the people and preserved the dignity of their dead.


 A week earlier, on 2nd August, three days after the attack on Adampan Hospital , the LTTE hid behind a wall in Valvettithurai and reportedly fired their new RPGs gifted by the Sri Lankan government, and killed six soldiers of an Indian patrol. The Indian Army reacted in anger killing about 40 civilians. This seemed a self-defeating action for the Indian Army just when India was responding  to the Sri Lankan government’s demand that the Indian Army pull out, by raising concern for the future of Tamils in that eventuality.  


 By attacking the Indian patrol, the LTTE killed two birds with one stone. It made the Indian government look foolish, and neutralised the charge of LTTE’s favoritism toward Valvettithurai (VVT). In a grotesque reversal of the tide of the Tamil militant struggle, during the Indian Army’s reprisals in Valvettithurai (Report No.3)President, many people from VVT sought shelter at the local Sri Lankan army camp; and the VVT CC prepared documents with necessary affidavits and details of the dead and sent them to President Premadasa, who in turn sent his deputy defence minister Ranjan Wijeratne to commiserate with the people of Valvettithurai over the Indian Army’s killings, even as the twosome presided over mass killings in the South to suppress the JVP.


 It was much later that we learnt of the sleazy side of the affair. The VVT CC had, acting on behalf of the LTTE, forged a gentlemen’s agreement with the Indian Army to the effect that the two sides would not exchange fire in VVT. During those months in 1989, both sides passed each other along parallel lanes or alleys showing no signs of alarm. By breaking the truce with its calculated attack on the Indian soldiers, killing them, the LTTE successfully provoked the Indian Army; it reacted with anger and force against the people of Valvettithurai.


 The VVT CC of course knew danger in collaborating with the LTTE, knowing well its methods and the unreliability of its word. The game of on-off war and peace for transient gains, forced on the Valvettithurai people the indignity of refuge in the Sri Lankan army camp – at a time when it was killing Sinhalese people and would return to killing Tamils in less than a year.  


 It was all meaningless, even as the VVT CC followed the LTTE’s prescription for useful human rights activism. Who would have dreamt that the LTTE would in ten months provoke the Government by killing hundreds of surrendered policemen, the way it did the Indian Army in VVT; that soon afterwards Deputy Defence Minister Wijeratne who commiserated in VVT would preside over an orgy of killing thousands of Tamil civilians in the East enforcing the President’s boast of putting down the LTTE as they had done the JVP, or that the LTTE would kill its allies of convenience: Ranjan Wijeratne in 18 months and Premadasa in four years?


 Had we been more alert, we would have realised that the desperation and nastiness in the LTTE had reached a point where they saw any restraint as inimical to their interests. The Indians had blundered in their arrogance and the Sri Lankan government was contemptuous of the Tamils. The constellation of forces that had given Tamil dissent some room to manoeuvre by taking modest risks had broken down. If the LTTE went this far in harming the people of VVT in a desperate game of power, what chance did those like Rajani have against their compulsive desire to achieve totalitarian control? Intuitively or otherwise Rajani felt it, but tried not to alarm the rest of us…


 2.6 Prepublication issue of The Broken Palmyra

 The Broken Palmyra and the Indian Army

  The pre-publication edition of The Broken Palmyra was released in May 1989 and Rajani went to England during the vacation in June for a research stint. Having been tipped off about the book, Major Nautyal raided Rajani’s house on 27th July and obtained a copy. The next day he sent word to Sritharan demanding another copy. He told us that the Indian Army had appointed two teams to review the book. Sritharan and I delivered a copy saying that they should return it.  On Sunday 30th July, Major S.K. Singh, deputy commander of Kondavil division, and Major Nautyal called at my mother’s residence. Singh said that the facts in the book were correct and he appreciated the analysis, but added that the authors had been unfair by the soldiers whose difficulties and anxieties they had not appreciated. He suggested that we might say something about it when the book is finally published. I said that the book would stand or fall by whether or not the readers find it truthful. There was no hint of the slightest threat during the visit…

Colonel Sashikumar of the Gurkha Regiment, who hailed from Kerala, had dealt with the University from 1988. In his own way he tried to maintain a clean record, especially with the University. When a university don’s house was raided in November 1988, probably on a tip off about a book in compilation[3], the Vice Chancellor made a complaint to Brigadier Kahlon, and in turn General Dhilon who was at Jaffna Fort, called the vice chancellor’s office and wanted the don to call on the local commander Colonel Sashikumar. As was then the practice this don was taken to the Tinnevely camp by fellow members of the staff, including Rev. Dr. Guy Rajendram.  


 The conversation was frank and in a way friendly. The purpose of the meeting from the Army’s point of view was to be better informed about the ground and to build cordial relations with the don whose home was raided. All materials removed from the don’s home were filed and returned, including photographs of civilians killed by the Indian Army in 1987 (obtained from Arasu).


 When confronted with the fact of the dirty war, which took the form of getting rid of LTTE supporters, Sashikumar responded obliquely by giving his perception of Jaffna society. He said that in his own area covering Kondavil and surroundings, he found that several hundreds had been killed when the LTTE eliminated the TELO in 1986. He perceived that the people had come to terms with it passively in return for order. Likewise he said that the society would come to terms with getting rid of LTTE supporters too.  

 We may note here the care Colonel Sashikumar took in dealing with the University. The Indian Army may not have lost any sleep over humbler civilians killed, but were very sensitive to bad publicity arising from incidents involving members of the elite. It is evident in the bureaucratic manner in which the Indian Army dealt with complaints. There would be queries and calls for reports down the line. The Indian Army knew that the Medical Faculty, the university students’ centre and canteens were being used and arms were being stored in the premises, but never once raided the place. They watched the place closely and kept their fingers crossed. In the course of the Indian pullout, Sashikumar ignored a warning from an LTTE sentry and drove into Ariyalai East to rescue a group of the ENDLF who were surrounded by the LTTE. Colonel Sashikumar was killed about 20th January 1990 . 


 While the Indian Army had no intention of physically harming any of us, being an intelligence man however, S.K. Singh could not get out of his head the suspicion that someone paid big money to have The Broken Palmyra written, but that is a different matter.


 The Broken Palmyra and the LTTE

The LTTE had obtained a pre-publication copy of the The Broken Palmyra and translated sections of the book for their own authorities in order to make a decision on what to do. Our suspicions that this had happened were corroborated in 1997 when we were given direct confirmation by an editor privy to the events.  

  During 1997 the government with the help of the Sri Lankan Army organised seminars in Jaffna to explain the Neelan-G.L. Peiris constitutional proposals. A journalist from the South had occasion to have a private chat with a courageous veteran journalist in Jaffna who had received commendations from Western missions in Colombo for carrying on with his task of reporting undaunted. The visitor asked the veteran why the media in Jaffna avoided discussing the proposals, even if only to criticise them?


 To the visitor’s surprise the veteran began with an outburst of wariness and trepidation, “You don’t understand. We could write 99 things they (the LTTE) want us to write, but then if we write just one thing they disapprove of, that would be the end.” The veteran continued, “You may know that the Rajasingam sisters worked untiringly for the LTTE and did so much through very difficult times. But then, see, they killed Rajani without any mercy.” The visitor’s ears pricked up and he urged the veteran to continue. The following is what the veteran journalist from Jaffna said, with subsequent clarifications we obtained from him in person:


 In late August 1989, the veteran was given a copy of The Broken Palmyra by Major Shastri of the Indian Army in charge of a camp near Chundikuli and was asked as a favour to make a copy for him, as the Major knew that he had a copying machine. While copying, the veteran was told of references to his paper by the person handling the copying; he became interested and had an additional copy made. This was seen by his brother-in-law, a news paper proprietor, who began reading it. Subsequently, the Assistant Chemist, Chemical Lab, at the Cement Corporation’s KKS cement factory from Vadamaratchy visited this proprietor. The latter, with no harmful intention, told him about the book to be published and that it would expose the LTTE. A couple of days later, Pottu Amman, who was then LTTE’s area leader for Vadamaratchy, sent some of his men to the veteran journalist with paper and made a copy which they took to Vadamaratchy.


 The Assistant Chemist then lived in Pt Pedro. The LTTE then approached Mr. Rudra, a senior lawyer in Pt Pedro, to translate The Broken Palmyra for them. The lawyer, who knew the family, wriggled out of it but later told Rajani’s father Mr. Rajasingam, also a native of Pt Pedro and an old boy of Hartley College . Pottu Amman was in the course of a few months promoted to the position of Chief of Intelligence.     


 Subsequently, about early September 1989, a son of Saloysius, a sworn translator in Nelliady, Vadamaratchy, who worked for the journalist, rushed to him with the news that that a party working with the Indian Army had abducted his father, the translator. He wanted the matter given press publicity. Before the next edition went to press, he came back and told the veteran to take the item out because it was the LTTE that had taken the translator. After mid-September the LTTE released the translator, and the veteran learnt that his job under custody had been to translate excerpts from The Broken Palmyra. Within a few days of his release Rajani was assassinated.


 Having obtained the copy, the LTTE would have taken it to someone conversant in English to tell them what was in it, perhaps to the Chemist himself who alerted them in the first place, to point out extracts for translation, for dispatch to their superiors in the Vanni.

 It is apparent that Pottu Amman wanted to keep this operation within a closed circle. For example, the Valvettithurai Citizens’ Committee was a window for the LTTE in sensitive matters and continued to function, chiefly because the LTTE and the Indian Army found its existence useful as a channel. Other citizens’ committees had been closed down by the LTTE, either by intimidation or by killing their leaders, notably Principal Anandarajah of the Jaffna Citizens’ Committee.


 Having the translation done in Valvettithurai would have been easy for Pottu Amman, but he decided otherwise. This brings us to undercurrents of divisions and competing interests and furtive manoeuvrings within the LTTE, which came to the surface in 1990, which make it difficult to trace the chain of decision making that led to the killing of Rajani.


 Mahattaya was in charge of field operations at that time even as moves were under way to cut him down to size. Pottu Amman, who may have known in 1989 that Prabhakaran was grooming him for the job of intelligence chief, was, not long after, used to edge Mahattaya out and strike the final blow against him. His increasing authority is further evident from the fact that the LTTE used him to provoke an Indian Army massacre in Valvettithurai on 2nd August 1989, described above, which created considerable resentment among the local folk. Pottu Amman was an outsider and both Mahattaya and Prabhakaran were from Valvettithurai.


 In early May the LTTE team was in Colombo for talks with the Premadasa government. Both Mahattaya and Balasingam were in the team. Mahattya had attempted during this period to contact Dayapala, Rajani’s husband (see Chapters 4&5). There were no doubt discussions afoot within the LTTE about how to deal with activism in the University. Killing Rajani or someone else was normal to the LTTE’s way of thinking, but there would also have been opposition considering what it would cost. Rajani enjoyed the affection and goodwill of even students who were LTTE members, and she was irreplaceable for the wider community…If the acquisition of The Broken Palmyra played any role at all, it was to reinforce a process already set in motion.  



Extractfrom Chapter 3:

Some Crucial Pieces of the Jigsaw


To everything there is a season…A time to be born and a time to die…A time to weep and a time to laugh: a time to mourn and a time to dance…I know that whatsoever God doeth it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it.


3.1 The Sands Run Out


Rajani was assassinated by the LTTE on the 21st of September 1989. This was a murder that was, like thousands of others, never investigated, no evidence compiled by anyone in authority and no one found guilty. In this chapter, we detail our collection of information and testimonies over many years, leading to a conclusive picture of her killers. We had much of this information by 2005, a large portion of it preserved in a memoir written in early 1990. The first testimony pointing to the identity of the killer came from the journalist Manoranjan in the months after Rajani was killed. Further important information came from members of the PLOTE’s Theepori splinter group we interviewed in Canada in 2005… 

 Key LTTE intelligence operatives came to Bharathy Community Centre in Pungankulam regularly, including Charles and Bosco, both leading subordinates of the intelligence chief, Pottu Amman. One who came less often was Kapil Amman, Pottu’s deputy. While Bosco did not offer a reason for killing Rajani, Kapil Amman, who came to the Centre a few days after the killing, said that she was killed for campaigning overseas against the policies of the LTTE.


 The Assassination


The late Prof. Kanagasundaram was the first head of the Anatomy Department; he was also the Dean of Medicine and had recruited Rajani. (He previously taught at the National University of Singapore.) When Prof. Kanagasundaram and some others left after the July 1983 communal violence, Rajani on her return from Britain , with her doctorate, became the only qualified member of the staff, although the department’s cadre had six positions. Mr. Kulendran, who was a technical officer in the Anatomy Department, who had joined in 1981, testified to how Rajani was the only medical don to be on the premises, amidst considerable fear and uncertainty, to motivate and lead the non-academic staff in reopening the faculty after the Indian Army offensive in 1987. He recalled Rajani firmly arguing with and persuading Brigadier Manjit Singh to help them reopen.


 When Rajani went to England in June 1989 for three months, there was no qualified lecturer in Anatomy. Kulendran recalled that the Dean, Prof. Balasubramaniam, had written to her asking her to return and conduct the Anatomy exams for the 2nd MBBS. At the same time Kulendran had heard that on account of the Indian Army searching her office and her home, which both had a large collection of Marxist literature, her friends had advised her not to return. But she returned on 3rd September.


 Upon Rajani’s return, she found that a final year student and LTTE member, Prabhakaran, had been shot and injured by a pro-Indian group while returning from clinicals on a bicycle. He survived because the Indian Army found him and warded him in Jaffna Hospital . As if to excuse the shooting an Indian Army official told the Vice Chancellor that the student was a confirmed LTTE member. Taken aback by this development, Rajani asked her colleagues why the Faculty, the University and the student body had not confronted the Indian Army on this. After all, the latter had given an assurance that people would not be persecuted for their political views provided they did not carry arms. The injured student was unarmed.


 Rajani discovered to her alarm that contrary to the University’s practice, the students supporting the LTTE wanted the shooting of student Prabhakaran by an ally of the Indian Army suppressed. The Medical Faculty was then operating as something of an LTTE camp. The Indian Army which had its suspicions was holding back only because of the political cost. The LTTE lobby was worried that should the issue of student Prabhakaran be given prominence, the Indian Army would crack down on the Medical Faculty to prove their point. This was the nightmare that Rajani dreaded: By using the University for its short-term ends, the LTTE was silencing the University as a voice of conscience and a centre of non-violent resistance to violations of the people’s rights. 


 A few days later, Rajani hosted a lunch for the staff in her department at a restaurant near Tinnevely Farm. During the lunch she told her staff casually in Tamil that death to this Thamilichchi (Tamil woman) is not far away. (Several other premonitions of her death, including that the killer would be one born like herself of a Tamil mother have been cited from her last letters in No More Tears Sister After lunch, they had a happy session where Rajani sang some English songs and danced.


 On the 13th September 1989 , Majors S.K. Singh and Nautyal of the Gurkha Regiment called at Rajani’s room in the Medical Faculty and there ensued an argument. Rajani told them with characteristic firmness that they had no business to raid her house during her absence in England and harass those who stayed there and that they should not come there and alarm her children, but could arrest her if they wished to question her. The July raid was done to obtain copies of the pre-publication edition of our book, The Broken Palmyra. The meeting ended on a strained note.


 Soon afterwards, the two most prominent LTTE students in the medical faculty (see chapter 2) Sooriyakumar and Dharmendra, the latter known for carrying a pistol in the university premises, came in to speak to her. In her frank manner she told them what happened, that The Broken Palmyra had cropped up in the conversation, but that she did not fear anything serious and could handle the matter herself. The conversation drifted towards a subject that had a note of menace. There were already rumours that the Indian Army would pull out. LTTE circles in particular knew that President Premadasa had given them a carte blanche to deal with any opposition to them as they pleased. Dharmendra told Rajani that once the Indian Army withdrew, it would take them only two days to wipe out the EPRLF and other groups allied to the Indians, and then they would return to war with the Sri Lankan government. 


 Rajani asked, “Why do you want to wipe out those poor conscripts and others very much like yourselves?” Dharmendra replied that they were traitors. Rajani shot back, “According to your definition I am also a traitor. You will kill me as well.” Dharmendra did not respond to this. This was one of the rare occasions Rajani had any kind of two-way discussion with LTTE students. Their characteristic conduct was to listen to her, but not engage. Hitherto they found her standing up to the Indian Army useful in protecting students with LTTE links who were detained or threatened. Now they had visions of becoming all-powerful and she was an obstacle.


 When Rajani began to have significant dealings with Dharmendra. he had a roommate of Hill County Tamil Origin who was a medical student. The Hill Country student told Rajani that he feared for his safety as Dharmendra had accused him of sending letters purportedly from the LTTE warning students against sitting for examinations, when it was actually Dharmendra who sent these letters. Rajani told Dharmendra that because of their insensitivity Tamils in Jaffna were already isolated, and giving the impression that Hill Country Tamils were not welcome in Jaffna would do the Tamils and the University immense harm.


 On another occasion, Dharmendra had come running to Rajani when the Indian Army searched for him, and Rajani assured him that she would always defend the right of students to hold and express their own political views. She had at times wondered whether he had any sense of loyalty to her or would one day put a bullet into her. After she was killed, he was seen indulging in emotional displays. Once he uttered, “Whoever killed Madam will not have peace in this life.”…


 Sooriyakumar, who topped in examinations, was by contrast outwardly respectful and restrained in his conduct, giving no hint of his influence and intimacy with the LTTE. He listened but never responded to Rajani’s arguments and pleas…As Rajani’s recent encounter with the Indian Army offered the LTTE an opportunity to kill her and shift the blame  to the IPKF after the assassination, Sooriyakumar predictably blamed the Indian party citing The Broken Palmyra as the cause.


 The Events of the 21st September

Rajani conducted the viva voce exams for nearly 150 students, over four days for two hours each afternoon. On the final day, 21st September, Kulendran remembers telling Rajani that the sari she wore looked well on her. Earlier that day before arriving at the university Rajani entertained two British visitors, Malcolm Rodgers and Anna Doney, to lunch at her home, which was situated in a lane that was 250 yards east of the Medical Faculty off Adiapatham Road. The following account of the lunch is taken from a record the author made a few months after her death:

 We talked a good deal about the situation. Rajani talked fast as though she had a great deal to say and not enough time to say it. She was looking sombre and was deeply anxious about the future of the community. She had expressed a premonition of her death a week after her return from Britain on 3rd September. She had seen a British publisher about the publication of The Broken Palmyra , but had not received word. She remarked, “These fellows are sharks. They wouldn’t care if my brains were blown up.” I learnt later that she had talked about death a number of times. On 2nd February when two students on a peaceful protest were killed by Indian Army firing, she had written to a friend reflecting on death – as a passing away from the pain of life… Following the murder of TULF leaders Amirthalingam and Yogeswaran on 13th July, she wrote to a friend why this group should kill persons who were a spent force who posed no threat to them. She said perhaps for the first time that she sometimes feared Anton Balasingam, who harboured an intense hatred towards these leaders. Rajani was not her vivacious self.”


 She then left on her bicycle to conduct viva voce examinations at the Faculty at 2.00 PM . A green hiring car that had dropped her visitors at her house was to come back about then, but did not turn up. We learnt later that some youths had stopped the car at the top of the lane. The driver got frightened and went away. Neither did he make contact with the visitors to collect his fare. In retrospect that was an indication of LTTE deployment in the area. A farmer in a field in another lane off Adiapatham Road in the same area later told one of our contacts that some youths he knew as LTTE told him earlier the same day to keep a lookout on movements in the area. These were facts obtained from some eyewitnesses:


 We learned from our contacts that soon after Rajani’s killing, some youths were seen running north from near the scene of the crime on Adiapatham Road . It was an area frequented by the LTTE and no one else could have got away with the intrusive activity recorded below.


 There were peculiar goings-on in the Faculty premises the day Rajani was murdered. Around 3.00 PM three young men walked in through the main entrance of the Medical Faculty, all the way down the long foyer, and stopped in front of Rajani’s room just inside the Anatomy corridor to the right. While they looked at the room, some students approached them from behind and inquired about what they wanted. Taken by surprise they said they were looking for Dharmendra. Subsequently one of these youths was seen talking to Dharmendra in the faculty canteen.

  Two other incidents took place between 3.00 PM and 5.00 PM while Rajani was at the viva voce examination. A man of about 35 years walked down the foyer and towards the end, glanced sideways. Realising he had been noticed, he turned left away from the Anatomy corridor and went into the Forensic Medicine corridor. He was heard trying a door as if looking for someone and then came out and went away.

 Lastly, a security guard escorted in a stranger. Before reaching the end of the foyer, they turned right into a path leading into an open space alongside the Anatomy Department. Stopping in front of a window from where Rajani could be seen at the viva voce examination, the security guard was seen raising his hand, upon which they went away.

 Kulendran remembered that towards the end of the afternoon, Rajani’s younger sister Sumathy, who taught English at the Arts Faculty, came to see her. He told Sumathy that the examinations would be over in 15 minutes. Sumathy went away saying she would talk to her later.  Once the examinations were over Rajani told him that she would be late the next day, as first thing in the morning she would go to Jaffna Hospital to give the Anatomy answer scripts to Dr. Ponnampalam. She set off on her bicycle carrying the answer scripts in a shoulder pack.

 Rajani was killed at 5.45 PM between the Medical Faculty and her home.

 After Rajani had left, Kulendran began to start his motorcycle, when her student Neethirajah ran to him and told him that Rajani had been shot. Bewildered as he was at the news, he accelerated his motorcycle until he found her on the road almost opposite the university guesthouse.

 The guesthouse keeper, Asi, came and told them that the assassin’s first shot had not been fatal and he heard Rajani shout in English, “Why are you shooting me?” One of the assassin’s subsequent shots went through an eye and pierced her head. 

 Kulendran went to Rajani’s body and wept. Thirunavukkarasu, a labourer from the department with a polio leg, and yet a hard worker, came from Tinnevely Junction, placed Rajani on his lap and cried beating his chest. By this time Rajani’s hands were shaking, and she was in the throes of death. Then Dr. Sritharan from the Mathematics Department arrived and became uncontrollably upset. The neighbours had, for fear, closed their houses and gone inside. Dr. Sritharan called them out saying that a lady had been shot and needed help. The people who had gathered began to express fear that those who showed themselves close to her were also in danger of being killed. Mr. Brindabhan, an employee of the University who lived nearby, took Sritharan away.


 Some of the students stopped a passing car and took Rajani to hospital. A short distance from where Rajani had fallen, Kulendran saw the backpack in which Rajani had carried the Anatomy examination answer scripts. He collected it and later handed it over to Prof. Parameswaran. From the scene he went to Navalar Road to inform Rajani’s parents. He told the father euphemistically that Rajani was injured and had been taken to hospital. Her father Mr. Rajasingam was visibly very upset, and her mother Mahila fainted. He later found that Rajani’s body on reaching hospital had directly been taken to the mortuary. Mr. Rajasingam later went out alone on his bicycle in the dark to tell one of Rajani’s colleagues pithily in English, “Do you know? Rajani has been shot dead.”


  For Kulendran, Rajani’s death darkened what would otherwise have been a happy occasion. Rajani and Prof. Kanagasundaram, then living in Singapore , had applied for a World Health Organisation scholarship to further his training for laboratory work in Anatomy. He had been informed on that very day of the success of the application for training in India . He was under the impression that the EPRLF, which was then allied to the Indian Army, had killed Rajani. His brother-in-law, a postmaster, cautioned him the same day, “Wait awhile, don’t be hasty... The truth will come out!”


 Rajani’s killing was meticulously planned with clear knowledge of her work schedule and her route home. On most days Rajani’s movements would have been unpredictable. But on this last day of the viva voce examination, given the late hour following a tiring day, she was likely to go straight home to her children. The timing of the killing coincided with the completion of the Anatomy examinations.


 Soon after Rajani was shot, it was Selvakumar, an off-duty security guard who had no particular reason to be there, who raised the alarm in the Medical Faculty. Senior non-academic staff at the University further confirmed widespread talk about a particular security guard’s role in assisting the killers by being a guide on the spot.


  Rajaratnam, then vice president of the Medical Students’ Union, had been an LTTE supporter, and parted company with it after it massacred members of other groups. Rajaratnam went into the Medical Faculty immediately afterwards, and found Sooriyakumar and Dharmendra there. One look at them convinced him that they were responsible. So strong was his conviction that he found any compilation of evidence a waste of time. He remained a strong and active supporter of moves to commemorate Rajani and a great strength to others in his defiant frame of mind…


 Among the visitors who went to Rajani’s house out of concern for the family was Prof. Ramakrishnan, who taught Philosophy and was staying in the guest house nearby. He stayed for some time. Dr. M.A.M. Nuhman who taught Linguistics and Mrs. Chitra Maunaguru came in for a few minutes. Nuhman, a native of Kalmunai, had long identified with the Tamil struggle, but could not stay in Jaffna after the LTTE expelled the Muslims a year later. Another who came in during the night was Cynthia, a medical student and LTTE leader Kittu’s wife. Rajani had regularly reassured her when she returned after the Indian Army’s takeover and urged her to follow the medical course. She did not appear very comfortable, and struck some of those present as having been sent. She spoke much, but ramblingly, and her embarrassed friend who was present, signalled her to stop.  


3.2 Eye Witnesses to the Assassination

 Saratha Thevi


Saratha Thevi was a young woman in deprived circumstances near Kokkuvil having a difficult time. Rajani had helped her medically and then she came to live at Rajani’s home. Although her education was only up to grade two, Saratha had an aptitude to learn fast and advanced as a respected paramedical worker, travelling daily to Tellipalai Hospital on her bicycle. Being close to Rajani, Saratha had an intuitive sense of her situation. On the fateful day,  she was preoccupied with thoughts of imminent danger to Rajani. She recalled that she slapped herself hard on the face,  worrying that something might happen to Rajani. She rushed home,   also since Rajani had been expecting guests and wanted her back at 5.30 PM. She cycled back along KKS Rd. and turned east into Adiapatham Rd.


Nearing Rajani’s place, she heard several gunshots and saw Rajani who was cycling some distance ahead throw up her hands and fall on the road. Saratha rushed to her, and held her. A bullet had pierced one eye. Saratha noticed Rajani looking at her through the unaffected eye just before she died. She then noticed students rushing to the scene shouting, “Madam! Madam!” She also noticed the killer fleeing from the scene. He was short and fair. Saratha was followed to the scene a short time later by Aachchi, the elderly lady who was Rajani’s housekeeper.


People of the locality later told Saratha that the killers were the LTTE. A few days after the killing, she was accosted by the LTTE who wanted to know how she came to know Rajani. She told them that Rajani had helped her when she was desperate and enabled her to become a self-respecting woman able to function on her own. She was unable to guess why she was asked. Most people she met greatly regretted that  Rajani’s loss.. Saratha suffered from many sleepless nights after the killing. She went to a young doctor at Jaffna hospital for medicine. In explaining her sleeplessness, she expressed what Rajani had meant to her. The doctor gave her medicine, but remarked that Rajani’s death was no loss as far as they were concerned. It was an instance where ultra-nationalist politics, or contempt for one of their number who was seen to have stepped out of line, compromised the doctor’s role.


Hussain (not the witness’ real name) had gone north down Karuwepulam Rd., about a hundred yards east of the Medical Faculty entrance, to meet a surveyor on private business. On reaching Adiapatham Rd, upon his return about 5.45 PM, he saw a cyclist doubling a passenger and riding furiously. The passenger was clutching a revolver. Dropping the passenger on the road, twenty-five yards east of Hussain, close to the university guesthouse, the cyclist proceeded on his way. Hussain who knew Bosco, recognised him as the passenger who had alighted, but Bosco had evidently not noticed him. From the other testimonies (see  below), we infer that the bicycle carrying Bosco had overtaken Rajani, while she was riding, and dropped him ahead of her. Bosco (who was now facing Rajani) shot her a few times. Hussain then observed him cross the road, get on to the pillion of a motorcycle, whose rider had been waiting for him a short distance east (away from the Medical Faculty towards Tinnevely Junction) and get away. It was thus that first-hand information about the killing was initially in the possession of Jaffna’s Muslim quarter (see End Note).

 A young medical student

Manoranjan, who later made his mark as a journalist, was travelling to Colombo by train from Jaffna about December 1989. A student recognised him and they began talking. The student doing first-year medicine in Jaffna was a cousin of Manoranjan’s classmate and friend. The student said that he had seen Manoranjan helping with Rajani’s commemoration, but being unsure of his politics had hesitated to approach him. Once the train passed Vavuniya the student spoke more freely. 

  As though having decided to unburden himself the student spoke, “Uncle, I am the only eyewitness to Rajani’s killing. I am telling you because I do not want the truth to be buried.” He proceeded to tell his story. Rajani was the student’s anatomy teacher. His 2nd MBBS was to be the following year. Rajani came out walking briskly after sitting with her fellow examiner Dr. Ponnampalam and finalising the viva results of his immediate seniors and repeats. Students waiting to talk to her about their performance did not stop her seeing she was tired. Our witness, the student, had already removed his bicycle when Rajani took hers. She smiled at him. Out of respect he waited for her to go and followed behind. On the road she turned right and proceeded east.  

The student then observed a bicycle briskly overtaking him and going towards Rajani. It had evidently been waiting west of the faculty. Subsequently he saw a man fire at her using a revolver. The gunman, who had alighted from the bicycle, fired a few more bullets into Rajani who lay fallen on the road. The student in shock overtook the man and Rajani’s body. The student looked back as the killer finished. Their eyes met. The killer was about 35-years-old, well built and moderately fair.  

The student immediately recognised him. He had seen the killer at the Medical Faculty a few months earlier. Being an unusual looking person who was not a student, he had asked some friends from his native Pt. Pedro who he was. He was told that the man was Bosco from the LTTE’s Intelligence Wing.  

After witnessing the murder and returning to his room, he told his roommate what he saw. The roommate warned him not to talk about it. As days wore on his fear did not abate. He decided to quit Jaffna and seek asylum abroad…  

In response to our queries, the priest, with wide-ranging contacts with persons who had an evangelical orientation both inside and outside the Roman Catholic Church, soon made contact with a youth in his early 30s, who had known Bosco well and had been 11-years-old when Rajani was killed. The youth, who was reluctant to talk to us directly, related to the priest his story of the events after Rajani’s murder…  

As a young boy, and native of Ariyalai, the youth went in the evenings to Bharathy Sana Samuha Nilayam (Bharathy Community Centre), a short distance from Kandy Rd., at Pungamkulam Junction…In the immediate aftermath of Rajani’s killing, these cadres had a rendezvous at Bharathy CC in the evening. Those in attendance were Bosco from the Intelligence Wing, Navaneethan from the Military Wing and Peter. The youth has a vivid memory of the conversation that ensued:  

Bosco announced jubilantly in reference to Rajani: “Avavai anuppiyachchu” (She has been dispatched) and added: “Ava ennai aen chudurai? Enru chingam mathiri ketta.” (She looked at me like a lioness, and asked, why are you shooting me?)  

(Here Bosco had evidently translated into Tamil, what the guest housekeeper Asi had heard Rajani shout in English.)  

Navaneethan said in response: “Vayukullai vachchirukkavenum” (“You should have put her in the mouth”). The company was exultant. Navaneethan, the witness learnt, is presently settled in Britain. Peter, according to the same witness, was responsible for shooting dead St. John’s College principal Edwin Anandarajah in June 1985, and is now dead.[4] Kapil Amman, LTTE’s deputy intelligence chief who came to the Centre gave Rajani’s criticism and her influence overseas as the reason for killing her…  


 Rajani Murder and the Killing of University Security Officers Felix and Thevathas

 The nervousness the LTTE felt about being identified as the killer, is revealed in the murder of two security officers from the University. One of them, Felix Anthony (37), was abducted by the LTTE. The employees’ union kept quiet and no report about it was made officially to the authorities. It was earlier rumoured that Felix would be released after the commemorative events concerning Rajani. According to a near relative, the LTTE played a recording of Felix naming them as Rajani’s killers. As part of its ongoing decimation of Jaffna society, the LTTE set up colleagues to betray one another.

 We learnt through security sources at the University that on 27th September, six days after Rajani was killed, the LTTE shot dead Felix and another security officer Thevathas (39) on the beach south of Jaffna Town . A further pointer to how closely the LTTE had been monitoring the University is the murder the previous year in Kondavil of the security officer Mr. Tharmalingam, who is believed to have been sympathetic to the EPRLF.  

 Security officers would have obtained detailed knowledge of Rajani’s killing, which took place in the university precincts. One of those who monitored the security officers has been identified by employees as the same security officer who signalled the killers as Rajani left the Faculty. He was noted for carrying audio-visual recording devices while spying for whichever power then in control. He is now reportedly a broken man. To this day, security officers tend to be evasive about Rajani’s killing and fear the spy.


 3.3 After the Murder: The Fallout and Elaborate Cover-Ups


On the morning after the murder, Sumi Kailasapathy, a student council member who was greatly disturbed by the event, went to the council office and  asked, who would have done this? Arunothayan, a full-time LTTE spy who flunked all his exams, launched into a defensive tirade. Sumi heard him out and pointed out to him that she had not made an accusation and was only wondering like everyone else. The student council drafted a statement in which Rajani’s killers were described as fascists. Arunothayan objected and asked why they were using such strong language. The others pointed out to him that they had used language just as strong when Indian Army firing on student protestors earlier in February killed two students, to which he had not objected.

 On the 22nd of September, the day after the killing, Rajani’s coffin was brought in procession to the Medical Faculty for members to pay their respects. Hardly any of Rajani’s faculty colleagues were present. Neither had any one of the several of whom, who lived nearby, visited her home by the morning after the killing to inquire after the children. Among the few exceptions were Prof. and Mrs. Saravanapavanandan who also joined the protest demonstration on 2nd October. As for the others, the only charitable explanation is that they knew and were scared. 

 The same morning, a former student of the university and member of the militant group EROS joined the queue of mourners filing past the coffin. He knew Rajani’s father Rajasingam Master well, and had come from the Vanni that morning. While in the queue, he began expressing spontaneous anger and exasperation at the killing. A medical student from Valvettithurai came up to him and cautioned him not to be expressive, since those who killed Rajani were taking a video recording. He added that the killers had come from nearby where he buys his food. The former student who bought his meals from a house in Potpathy Rd. used to meet other students there, including the medical student who cautioned him. The video was being taken by the LTTE. Thus on the first day itself there were whispered indications that a section of the killers had come from Potpathy Road, which is easily accessible through Konavalai Lane just opposite the Medical Faculty.

 A former PLOTE source from Kokkuvil told us that a colleague of his who stayed near Potpathy Road  had told him that two persons brought in for the assassination had stayed the previous night in the room shared by Dharmendra and L.  Asked for their names, he said he was having some difficulty in contacting the former colleague. He said that L angered many colleagues by using former PLOTE connections to find sleeping places for LTTE cadres…   

 Rajani’s funeral was on the 23rd of September. At the end of her burial service at St. James’ cemetery, Nallur, on a wet and cloudy evening, the shadows were falling early. The rainy season had just set in. The grave looking Mallakam Magistrate, Mr. Gunaratnam, who was among the mourners, called me aside. He was concerned that many people were still blaming the Indian Army. He said, “Political considerations aside, I must tell you that this has all the hallmarks of the LTTE. It is what people call a ‘clean job’. There was no clumsiness. All the bullets found their mark. This is the conclusion I can make based on the many inquests I have been called upon to perform.”


 3.4 Don Arasu, Student L and Monitoring the Fallout


 There was one question which LTTE spies were asking people soon after the killing, “Who do you think killed Rajani?” The LTTE would have been quick to blame the Indian Army or a rival group if there had been a groundswell of opinion to support it…


 L made himself scarce shortly after Rajani’s assassination. A number of persons in his neighbourhood were convinced that he was compromised in the assassination. Saratha, a young woman whom Rajani had helped, said of this youth, “I always told Amma (Rajani) to be careful of L, but Amma thought he was a PLOTE boy and did not take me seriously. See what has become of her?” He later told another youth in the neighbourhood cryptically that he had broken all connections and was out of the LTTE.


 In early 1990, L sought a meeting with Dr. Sritharan of the UTHR (J). The meeting took place in Colombo in March 1990. L expressed to Sritharan a wish to meet the Vice Chancellor Prof. Thurairajah, whom they then met at the Open University, Colombo . Thurairajah coincidentally said that he had met the UGC Chairman Prof. Arjuna Aluvihare who communicated what Vasudeva Nanayakkara MP, member of the Parliamentary Select Committee dealing with the NLMC, had told him. The Committee had received two letters from the Jaffna Medical Students’ Union, the first endorsing the incorporation of the NLMC into Eastern University and the second opposing it. On Sritharan pointing out to Thurairajah that L was the Union president, L reluctantly admitted that he had signed the first letter without calling a committee meeting. The second, he confessed, came from the committee signed by the vice president (Mr. Rajaratnam). L claimed that he had signed the first under duress when asked to do so by the Dean of the Faculty, Prof. Balasubramaniam, whom he added, cried profusely when Rajani was killed.

 Rajani had been a lone voice opposing the incorporation of the NLMC. We have seen no evidence connecting the NLMC issue directly to Rajani’s murder. However, L’s duplicity and an influential section of the Faculty being compromised with the LTTE over the NLMC, illustrate the murky constellation of forces that made Rajani’s peril even greater, and her death convenient…


 3.5 Operation Fall-Out and those involved


 Dharmendra continued his involvement with the LTTE. The 1995 Exodus resulted from the LTTE on the 30th of October 1995, ordering the entire Jaffna populace to move to the Vanni, in the wake of the army offensive to take the peninsula.[5] It was crucial for its plan that the Jaffna Hospital staff should be importuned or threatened to close the Hospital. Here the LTTE met resistance. On 12th November 1995 , LTTE political wing leader Tamilchelvan came to the Hospital and tried to bully the doctors to shut down. Some doctors resisted. Dharmendra was an intern at Jaffna Hospital . As a student, Dharmendra had been in the same clinical group as another intern whom we will call Wenceslas. Wenceslas, who was an active Christian, had engaged Dharmendra and discussed the nature of the LTTE with him. Wenceslas says that the discussions had some impact, as Dharmendra had come to the position that the use of violence was wrong, although he generally avoided sensitive topics such as Rajani’s assassination. However, Dharmendra once admitted that killing Rajani was one of the failures of the LTTE. Perhaps Dharmendra remembered what Rajani told him many times, “You are still young and have strong ideas about your cause. You feel justified in killing those you deem traitors. As you mature your ideas will change. Perhaps you will feel equally convinced that your former beliefs which drove you to kill are wrong. By then it would be too late and valuable lives would have been lost.”    


Wenceslas said that Dharmendra had been very close to Mahattaya and for this reason was among those sidelined once the LTTE moved against Mahattaya and his supporters, moves which climaxed in the spring of 1993. The internal power struggle acted as a catalyst in Dharmendra’s distancing himself from the LTTE’s positions, with which he could not have been in total agreement anyway. Had Mahattaya been a protagonist in murdering Rajani, it would explain Dharmendra’s involvement in the spadework under orders. If Mahattaya was not involved, he had a little more leeway, but may not have been strong enough to distance himself from an action he was evidently uncomfortable with. By the time of the Jaffna Hospital crisis in November 1995, Dharmendra, although still a member of the LTTE, was just hanging on. Wenceslas said that having been implicated with the organisation for so long, he felt trapped, and was waiting for an opportunity to leave. After the meeting with Tamilchelvan where Wenceslas had objected to closing the Hospital, Dharmendra told Wenceslas confidentially that he was marked. Wenceslas was surprised because Tamilchelvan had smiled through the entire meeting. Dharmendra’s confidence, he felt, was intended as a friendly warning.


These and other indications led some of the doctors to feel  that if, they had continued to refuse the LTTE’s offers of exit visas for the doctors’ families and tried to keep the Hospital open, even as the International Committee of the Red Cross was faltering during the Exodus, M. Ganesharatnam, Daya Somasundaram and Noel Somasundaram, doctors who were most vocal on keeping the Hospital open, would have gone the same way as Rajani. The third doctor would have been the most vulnerable as a junior medic , then relatively unknown. It adds a further element of gravity to the ICRC’s conduct in allowing itself to panic instead of backing the medical staff who wanted to keep the Hospital open.[6] 

Through the grapevine of batch mates and contemporaries from the University of Jaffna, several doctors gathered that the LTTE sensed there were difficult times ahead, once it was pressurised to enter the Norway-brokered peace process in 2002. In preparation, it commenced sending abroad several professionals in its ranks, to strengthen itself in the West. This appears to be the context of Sooriyakumar’s move to Britain by the end of 2003[7] and subsequently Dharmendra’s opportunity to move out.


Sooriyakumar’s brother was Newton, a key operative in the LTTE’s Intelligence Wing. After the LTTE took over Jaffna in the early 1990s, it appointed Sooriyakumar Shadow Controller of Jaffna District Health Services. He subsequently served the LTTE as a surgeon. Sooriyakumar appears to have visited Colombo around 2005 to inquire about Newton, who was abducted in the South during the rising spate of tit for tat incidents at that time, even as the peace process was formally on. We last heard that Sooriyakumar  was with the National Health Service in the United Kingdom.


Dharmendra got into the news when he accompanied Sea Tiger Leader Soosai to Singapore for medical treatment during the peace process of 2002. He left the LTTE before the last few months of the war, and is rumoured to have left the country as a UN volunteer doctor.


 We have had no evidence that L’s predecessor as president of the Medical Students’ Union , who was very active as an LTTE front man in 1987, had any role in the killing. Coming from an elite background, St. Anthony’s, Trinity and St. John’s , one would place him among the types for whom the LTTE was a means to power and would have distanced himself once it did not suit his ambitions. In 1987, as a leading member of the LTTE’s network in the University, he was involved in the arrest of Gamini Navaratne, and demanded that the Jaffna Hospital stay put in the face of an impending assault on Jaffna by the Sri Lankan Army. The LTTE did find him useful at that time and he was at the same time ingratiating himself into the LTTE’s confidence without being in its inner councils. He too avoided Rajani when she wanted to discuss his ideas. 


3.6 Shadow War and Commemoration


By the time the funeral was over on the 23rd evening, there was no doubt in our minds that the LTTE was responsible. Many of our friends abroad who had their ears close to the ground were disappointed that we left matters open rather than name the LTTE publicly. Right or wrong, it was then a matter of tactical judgment.


 Firstly, political developments in the South were against us. The United National Party government under Premadasa was assisting the LTTE to take control of the North-East. Locally, more and more people were coming to know that the LTTE were the killers. Our strategy was to raise the issue at an international level, particularly by appealing to those overseas sympathetic to Rajani’s work. Apart from the UTHR(J), a large number of students, the Science Students’ Union, the Medical Students’ Union and the Science Teachers’ Association were all for it. Our immediate goals were a protest march and then a commemoration inviting international visitors. In this adverse political environment, to accuse the LTTE would be to scare away people from participation and place an enormous strain on the students. We thought it best to allow the truth to come out in the process.


 The LTTE neither admitted nor denied the killing and was aware that nearly everyone else soon came to know they did it. . Our preparations became a shadow war. The LTTE had no ground for confronting us, and they were becoming nervous as people with no direct connections to the University increasingly blamed them. An elderly lady from Vadamarathchi, an education officer, told us firmly, “It is the LTTE”, as though we were slow on the uptake. Thus was the talk in the tea stalls?  and bicycle shops.


 We had preliminary commemoration meetings in the University on 2nd October and at two schools, Chundikuli Girls’ College on the 4th and Jaffna College on the 6th, where Rajani had studied. The protest march on 2nd October was led by Vice Chancellor Prof. A. Thurairajah and Dean of Arts Prof. N. Balakrishnan. Only Prof. and Mrs. Saravanapavanandan among Rajani’s medical colleagues participated. The march was followed by the first commemoration meeting. At the latter, Thurairajah proudly read out from Rajani’s last letter sent to him upon her return from Britain about two weeks before she was killed: “There is no life for me apart from my people.

  As the weeks wore on towards the commemoration involving participants from abroad and other parts of the country fixed for 22nd November 1989 , Prof. Thurairajah asked us one day whether it was the LTTE that killed Rajani? Sritharan replied, “Why, didn’t you know that”?  Thurairajah said that he had thought otherwise and had met the British High Commissioner David Gladstone in Colombo , who asked him the same question. Thurairajah had replied that he did not know. Gladstone told him he had authentic evidence that it was the LTTE. Thurairajah was dumbfounded. Gladstone was an ambassador out of the ordinary who kept his ears close to the ground by personally cultivating a variety of contacts rather than leave it to the second secretary.

  Sritharan had earlier explained to Thurairajah the circumstances of the murder clearly and Thurairajah had listened, but the explanation had gone completely over his head.

 From that time onwards, Thurairajah was a cautious participant in the commemoration proceedings, but never discouraged us. He continued to do what we requested from him as chairman of the commemoration committee. We could also feel the staff becoming frightened. But the student unions stood firm.  

 By the evening of 19th November 1989, the Southern delegates for the commemoration had arrived in Jaffna and were hosted for dinner at Rajani’s parents’ home. The fact that the Medical Students’ Union president L was absconding was a sign of the LTTE’s hostility. Its vice president Rajaratnam and Chooty Kulasingam, the president of the Science Students’ Union , took on the brunt of organisation at considerable risk. Late evening on the 19th, while the Southern delegates were at Rajani’s parents’ home, the two of them came with sombre faces and reported that while they were drawing up the slogans for the march, an impressive collection of LTTE area leaders came to them and wanted them to carry slogans provoking the Indian Army by demanding their exit.


 Every time the student leaders tried to explain why they cannot do this the LTTE men got angrier. Sritharan advised them to keep talking to the LTTE and felt certain that they would not dare to stop the commemoration. It became nevertheless a war of nerves.

 The two-day commemoration began with seminars at the University on the 20th morning, when several of the foreign delegates too joined us. During the last seminar in the afternoon, a crisis arose when a group of LTTEers under the leadership of Tamilchelvan, then known as Dinesh, came to the student union room where slogans were being prepared for next day’s march and tried to divert the purpose of the march into one against India . In effect they were trying to stop it. Rumours were already being spread that the march was off.


 Sritharan too joined the students and asked the LTTEers if they knew the history of the struggle and how the LTTE had played a major role in giving India a foothold in Lanka? He said, now that we have to live with it, we need to deal with India carefully and not brashly. He challenged them on their implacable enmity towards other groups who too took up arms for the same cause. The LTTE men responded that the PLOTE had been a complete disgrace by acting as mercenaries in the Maldives . Rajaratnam immediately questioned them on the LTTE’s no less disgraceful role in drugs running. The LTTEers quickly denied it. Sritharan asked them if they knew why their offices in Paris were raided by the French Police and offered to give them further details. This was a rare occasion the LTTE was forced into a political engagement and did not quite know how to cope with it.


 While these arguments were going on, Sritharan came to the Kailasapathy Auditorium and in a move to scotch rumours that the march was off, told the writer to announce at the end of the last seminar the time and route of the march. As Sritharan predicted the LTTE withdrew. To add to the drama, Colonel Sashikumar, who was in charge of the battalion of Gurkhas at Kondavil, told Prof. Thurairajah that they had information that the LTTE were against the march and would duly provide an escort.


 The highlight on the second day, 21st November 1989, was the peace march through Jaffna Town, led by distinguished foreign guests who had all known Rajani: Martin Ennals, former secretary general of Amnesty International; Abdul Rahman Babu, former minister of the Tanzanian government and later its political prisoner; and Liz Phillipson, political assistant to British Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn. The slogans demanded an end to political killings and virtual conscription of children by all parties. The LTTE’s threatening behavior and attempts to censor slogans and substitute its own were firmly resisted by the students.


 Prof. Thurairajah kept away from the peace march although he chaired the main commemoration meeting in Kailasapathy Auditorium on the second day. Among those who attended were activists from the South and colleagues from Eastern University . Rajaratnam, the vice president of the Medical Students’ Union , spoke boldly about the tragedy facing our youth who, with no understanding of the issues involved, were being armed to serve rival factions and the only thing they were left with finally was a thirst for vengeance. Mohamed Abdul Rahuman Babu said at the commemoration meeting:


 Rajani has not died in vain, because her exemplary work will have influenced thousands and thousands of future generations. I was so touched yesterday in Jaffna , when we marched from the University through the streets of Jaffna , to see the emotions of the people who were watching, and the great terror. We could see they were terrified because there were guns everywhere, seen and unseen guns, but you could see also that their hearts were with the object of our march.”


 Those were two days we all enjoyed a respite from fear and the atmosphere was very free, even though the LTTE watched and openly filmed the proceedings. We had letters from members of the public expressing their appreciation of the peace march and their tremendous joy and relief at seeing the flame of freedom still burning in Jaffna despite the loss of Rajani.


 It was during the commemoration that the LTTE, after long deliberation, felt compelled to issue a statement it distributed to those who attended the commemoration, saying they had nothing to do with Rajani’s murder. The statement in Tamil, which began with formula rhetoric about liberation, switched tone severely warning all ‘traitors’ who ostensibly darkened the LTTE’s good name. 


 As time wore on it became clear that the LTTE had not only been meticulous in the execution of the murder, but also monitored and documented all subsequent developments. After Rajani’s commemoration, an old and friendly Jaffna milkman conveyed his excitement at having seen the me  in a video. He innocently explained that his nephew who was in LTTE Intelligence, played at his home the video recordings of the commemoration.


 3.7 Medical Faculty: Riddance of a Painful Memory

 Weeks after Rajani’s killing, the Medical Students’ Union and Medical Faculty employees submitted to their faculty board a proposal to name the new faculty auditorium after Rajani. In its favour they advanced the necessity for a strong gesture of solidarity with the deceased colleague who had sacrificed so much. They pointed out that just when the Faculty was finding it difficult to attract staff who had received advanced training abroad, a conscientious young person with such training came back despite all the risks and drawbacks, and was killed; which therefore places on the colleagues of the deceased, a strong necessity and obligation to demonstrate to the world that such sacrifice is given due honour, and would certainly not go unrecognised.


Instead the Faculty and Senate ignored Rajani and proposed other names for the honour – the very names of persons toward whom there had, until then, been hostility, indifference or skepticism – in short persons who were regarded unworthy of the honour. A faculty committee decided instead that in view of Rajani’s services to Anatomy, the ground floor corridor, rooms and the laboratory used for teaching Anatomy, known as the Anatomy Block, would be named after Rajani. The Professor of Chemistry told the Senate that a line must be drawn somewhere, as otherwise they might start honouring individuals by dedicating single rooms after them.


Mathematics Professor Tharmaratnam disagreed with Rajani politically. He felt that the militant phenomenon was called forth by the cowardice and moral bankruptcy of the establishment, and the corruption of the militants was more restrained than that of their olderpeers, who respected only the gun; and had these older peers vicarious access to a gun, they would certainly have gone berserk. It was the failings of his generation that he felt most keenly. It was a point of disagreement with Rajani; who while critical of the sins of the older generation that had become a spent force, went further in insisting that the militant leadership should be actively challenged and should not be ignored. Tharmaratnam had a long history of contesting abuse, especially in the university system, and suffered for it. He had a deep respect for Rajani. Speaking at the first commemoration meeting on 2nd October 1989 at the University’s Kailasapathy Auditorium, he said, Rajani not only believed in academic freedom, she practiced it.” He also participated in the commemoration meeting at Jaffna College on 6th October, where both he and Rajani had studied.


Having listened to what passed in the Senate, Prof. Tharmaratnam remarked that he was puzzled by Rajani’s colleagues’ attitude to her and remarked that even self-interest and self-preservation demanded that they formally value her. This clarifies what we had encountered in the disputes over the NLMC and the constant challenges Rajani posed to authoritarianism. An influential section of the staff harboured hostility towards Rajani deep down, which alone explains their hardened attitude to all efforts to commemorate her.  This suggests that it was not fear of the LTTE alone that underlay her faculty colleagues’ indifference towards observances after her death and the commemoration.[8]


3.8 More repression in 1990 – an attack on the incipient democratic awakening

 The commemoration and protest made a mark, which the LTTE found difficult to erase. Optimistically, we thought we could stay on and continue as before. But we had to contend with the politics of the South with its readiness to sell everyone else and themselves into the bargain. First they appeased the LTTE and helped them to stuff their prisons to bursting point. Then when the LTTE provoked war in June 1990, as known in advance to those with a basic understanding of the LTTE, the Government thrashed Tamil civilians with such vindictive fury that the feeble flame of Tamil dissent too was all but extinguished.

 In January 1990, a group of medical students came to Sritharan and identified themselves as LTTE supporters. They said Dharmendra encouraged them to participate in the commemoration peace march and they had felt reassured that the LTTE had not killed Rajani. But now they had their doubts. They asked if they could arrange a meeting between Sritharan and the LTTE to thrash out these doubts. Sritharan told them that it was the LTTE who killed Rajani and there was no purpose in such a meeting.

 In April 1991 when the war was in full swing, some LTTE recruiters went to a tutory in front of St. James’ Church on Hospital Road , Jaffna . The school children started asking questions. One was why they had killed Rajani. Taken off guard, the recruiters responded, “That was a top-level decision. We will make a statement at the appropriate time.” Next came the question, why they killed St. John’s College principal, Mr. Anandarajah. The session broke up in commotion.

 At Jaffna University itself a number of students continued to act with independence in the face of a slow exodus of staff and students. Section 5.2 of our Report No.8 under 

Crackdown in the University of Jaffna describes continuing resistance by students following the LTTE’s arrest of several students from May 1991. The LTTE summoned a meeting under false pretences and put on stage a senior lecturer in Tamil and former senior student counsellor to address them. The lecturer told them, “There are still weeds left in the University. They will not be tolerated. These weeds must be plucked up and cast away.” He went on to call the detained students traitors in which category he included also the Muslims. This senior don E. Balasundaram, who undertook this performance to curry favour with the LTTE, also had the privilege of leaving the University in 1994 and is now in Canada, where he is president of the Swami Vipulananda Arts Society.


[1] The NLMC would have stood a better chance of securing registration had not the LTTE begun a new round of war in 1990. Left in the lurch, the students registered by the NLMC were, by a special resolution of the Jaffna University Senate, admitted to the Medical Faculty of the University of Jaffna, notwithstanding opposition by the students. This shows how this affair, which was highly questionable, from the very beginning was backed by enormous political forces, such as the major Tamil nationalist parliamentary party, the TULF.

[2] Meeting us after more than twenty years, Tharmakulasingam told us the sequel. When at the suggestion of an officer he took his three-and-a-half -year-old nephew to the Indian Army medical post to be dressed, he sought out the army commander for the area, Col. Sharma. The latter after discussion with a superior, had a letter typed. He thrust money into the reverend’s hand and asked him to sign the letter, which exonerated the Indian Army and blamed the LTTE for the murder. Two weeks after the murders, the reverend was returning from a confirmation service in Atchuvely, when he was followed by two Sikh soldiers on a motorcycle. When he reached home, the soldiers too stopped and asked him to remove his cassock and made as though to shoot him. This spot was visible from the Udupiddy army camp. An elderly Sikh officer came running from the Udupiddy camp shouting ‘Stop, stop!’ The reverend’s life was spared. A few days later an army patrol came by his house. The reverend noticed among them the Sikh soldier who had killed his sisters. The patrol stopped and this man gave his gun to one of the other soldiers and came up to the reverend. He bent down, touched Rev. Tharmakulasingam’s feet and said in English, “I am sorry, I was helpless.” He evidently meant that he obeyed an order. The reverend reflected that a Tamil unit of the Indian Army that was also present in Udupiddy was sympathetic and helpful when he went for medication for the injured child and encouraged him to pursue justice.

[3] Acting on rumours that had reached the Indian Army’s ears, a party under a Captain Raghav of the Gurkha Regiment raided the home of the don in November 1988 for a manuscript that was eventually published as the Broken Palmyra, which it failed to find. It had been typed and copied months earlier.

[4] . The family of Peter are leading members of an Evangelical Church in Chundikuli. Asked if Anandarajah’s killer, as widely rumoured, had been the son of Pastor Ariyarajah (of a different independent church), the witness refuted this attribution. He said that Peter had a grudge against Anandarajah Sources close to the family said that another former LTTE member, now an independent pastor in Europe, confesses to involvement in the killing of the principal and said that he was brainwashed by the LTTE into doing so. Members of the St. John’s staff told these sources that some LTTE supporters on the staff were involved in the killing. The way the LTTE functioned, it was normal for them to have spies and informants in every institution and the reason why Anandarajah was killed, according to the staff members, was not because he organised a cricket match with the Army but because he did not allow the LTTE to intrude into the school. Whether these teachers went to the extent of instigating the killing is another question. Two of these teachers died violent deaths. One, a dramatist, moved to the University. 

[5] This was on the fifth anniversary of the LTTE’s order for the Muslims to quit the North en masse.





[8] The Jaffna University common room, which carries pictures of deceased members of the university staff, into early 2013, had no picture of Rajani, an omission that several visitors found disconcerting.

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